How to Pass the NPTE

Name: Carol Passarelli, Class of 2018
Undergrad:
 University of Southern California (fight on)
Hometown: 
Mountain View, CA
Fun Fact: Llamas don’t have fur or hair; it’s called fiber. Pretty cool. Or warm, actually. Depends on the fiber count.

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Wow, does it feel good to write that title and have it be true! Are there countless tips and tricks out there for SPTs looking to conquer the NPTE? Absolutely. Are they as good as my tips? Um, probably. But, hopefully, this will give you some tools to help tackle the important things…like, best snacks for studying (dry ramen), my highlighter color preferences (classic yellow), and (okay, seriously now) how to work with crippling test anxiety.


 

Let’s back up to almost a year ago: the comprehensive exam. Created by faculty as the final, culminating didactic exam before you leave for 6 months of clinical rotations. Most people will say not to worry—you’ve been preparing for this the entire time you’re in PT school! And, for the most part, y’all will do just fine with it.

If you’re like me, hearing that reassurance of success only increases my anxiety. If there is going to be an exception to the high pass rate, then I know it will be me. Yes, that’s right. I had my first bout of panic attacks since undergrad during the 2 weeks prior to the exam—and a giant whopper of an anxiety attack during the first half of the test. But hey, I do well academically…it’ll work out fine, right?

I didn’t pass.

Sure—I retook it the following week and did fine. Do I know exactly why I was so irrationally terrified of that exam? Somewhat, but there are still pieces I’m fitting together. That’s test anxiety, folks.

Flash forward to today: I passed the NPTE with a delightfully solid margin, graduated from an outstanding DPT program (only slightly biased), and am employed in my dream setting and location. Groovy.

I haven’t beat test anxiety, but I found ways to manage it for the biggest exam we have to take as PTs. Here are some tips on how to conquer the NPTE and get closer to being that amazing clinician we are all going to become.


1. Settling is okay

I don’t recommend doing this when you’re looking for your lifetime partner, dream house, or—most importantly—picking your dog, but when it comes to grappling with a beast of an exam, absolutely do this. At the end of the day, if you didn’t hit your quota of pages, didn’t understand the finer intricacies of lymphedema bandaging, or can’t for the life of you remember the side effects of certain medications, my goodness. Just go to bed. Decide to learn just 1 piece of information about each topic. Allow yourself to just know the surface level facts for now. In other words: keep momentum. You don’t need to know everything perfectly.

 

2. Check your emotions at the door

This is key for me and any of you who struggle with test anxiety. For me, knowing that I hadn’t passed the comprehensive exam made my initial month of studying an emotional undertaking. It’s difficult to separate your self-worth from how you perform on tests—particularly in a grueling graduate program. Albeit this is easier said than done; try your hardest, though, to leave any feelings of self-doubt and shame outside the room. It is not shameful to have a setback. Failing does not detract from your self-worth.

Get in your happy head space before opening up the textbook! If I wasn’t in that headspace, I wouldn’t study: I ultimately decided to cultivate my confidence in my test-taking ability over gaining that extra knowledge I could have gotten during those study hours.

 

3. Redefine the word “studying”

This is just a friendly reminder that studying is RAD. We all love to learn, and those of us in a PT program get to learn some of the coolest stuff out there. So why is ‘studying’ associated in my head with ‘nooooooooooo’? This harkens back to #2, but here it is again: the times that studying sucks 100% is when I feel: 1. Guilty for not knowing something I feel like I should know 2. Ashamed that I got a question wrong, or 3. Hungry. Remember how awesome it is to learn, review, and grow as a clinician. Find that gratitude. Eat a snack.

 

4. Don’t do what your classmates do

Classic advice, but the root of it is: we are all different. If you’re like me, then talking about studying strategies with classmates is probably my #1 stress-increaser. I avoided most of my classmates’ study groups and didn’t like to talk about my studying with my CI and my clinic. Also, you do NOT have to study 30 hours a week…but maybe you do! I highly recommend doing some reflecting BEFORE jumping into that meticulous, color-coded study plan you’ve created for yourself to determine what is truly best for you. Oh, and don’t follow someone else’s study plan.

If you read the above and still are curious about study schedule particulars (this post is about ways to pass the NPTE, I guess) I studied about 30-60 minutes before my clinical, 4-5 times a week for 3 months. About a third of this time was used to review previous practice test answers. I took 8 practice tests—yes, this is a lot and yes, this is expensive—because I knew I had to practice being in the test environment more than I had to review content. I know that a couple of my classmates studied intensively for 2-3 weeks and also passed. This really is a choose-your-own-path-follow-your-dreams recommendation.

 

5. Ask. For. Help.

Quite frankly, I wish I had done this more. If you sit with a concept and can’t seem to grasp it, ask a classmate. If you need a break from studying, then ask a friend if you can unload your thoughts with them. Remember that you’re not just taking an exam. You are also working on becoming an independent practitioner, finishing a clinical, job hunting, possibly moving, adopting puppies, cleaning your bathroom, etc. Essentially, there is a lot to balance, and it is an uncertain time full of transitions. Be kind to yourself, and lean on your support network.

 

If anyone is curious about other stress-reducing tips, feel free to email me at cpassarelli@regis.edu.

Best of luck, future PTs!

 

DPT School Nutrition: 4 Ways to Eat Healthy

Name: Janki Patel, Class of 2020
Hometown: Fremont, CA
Undergrad: University of California, Davis
Fun Fact: I hiked a 14er (Mount Democrat) for the first time…three days after moving from the Bay Area’s sea level.
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If you are currently enrolled in physical therapy (PT) school, or attended in your past, you can probably identify with the struggle of eating healthy, stress eating, and forgetting exercise. With one exam after another, I’ve found myself eating one snack after another. And by snack, I mean chocolate-covered espresso beans, chocolate-covered almonds, and chocolate-covered pretzels. Anytime anyone mentions “free food,” my ears perk up, eyes widen, and I suddenly feel as if I’ve been starving for centuries, instantly questioning “Where?! When?!” And, when I do finally find the time and energy to go grocery shopping, I think to myself, “I’m going to get a ton of vegetables, fruits, and healthy foods only.” Yet, I end up walking out with a handful of unhealthy items, which I justify by all the vegetables and fruits I just filled my cart with (it’s all about balance, right?!). Days later, I find myself eating all those unhealthy items first though, while the vegetables and fruits start going bad. And with more stress, I seek out the fatty, carbohydrate-heavy, sugar-loaded foods for comfort and relief. When I talk to classmates, I find many are in the same boat. It’s almost as if we could use a class about how to consistently eat healthy while in PT school…or maybe just a blog post!

We already learned that nutritious foods are better fuel sources for our brains and bodies, leading to improved energy, clearer minds, and overall better productivity. Ensuring proper nutrition takes self-discipline and motivation. Once you make it part of your everyday though, you won’t even have to think twice about it. Just like driving a car or riding a bike or remembering the direction of roll and glide for the convex-on-concave rule of arthrokinematics. It’s simply a matter of training the brain, or neuroplasticity, if you will.

1. Mindfulness

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Photo Credit: Mindfulness Words

 

Take the time to really listen to your body and thoughts in the present moment. When you find yourself reaching for a snack, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. Is your stomach really rumbling? When was the last time you ate? If the answer is “no” and “just a half hour ago,” then try opting for a drink of water or a piece of gum to chew instead. If you start deeply craving food, ask yourself where that craving is stemming from. What’s really causing it? Hunger? Or, stress and anxiety? If it’s stress or anxiety, then first acknowledge that the true cause of your feeling is stress or anxiety. But, don’t let that acknowledgement stress you out more. Take a minute to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, rather than running to the cafeteria or kitchen. Try to then relieve the craving by simply changing your position (sitting up straighter, getting up and taking a quick walk, or stretching) or environment. I find that every time I study on the dining room table, I end up grabbing a snack shortly after I start, or I sit with one to begin with so I don’t have to get up later. With the kitchen so close by, there’s little time between my thought and action. Choose a study spot away from food sources so that you’re given more time to think twice about any craving that occurs and prevent yourself from fulfilling it.

Find more activities to relieve cravings in the moment as well, whether it’s having quick play time with your pet, reading a short article (PT in Motion has great ones!), or talking to a family member or friend for a few minutes. Essentially, we want to train the brain to think “this is my cue to grab water, take a walk, or talk to someone” instead of “this is my cue to eat” whenever it receives the signal of a craving or desire to eat that really stems from stress or anxiety rather than hunger.

2. Commit to a List

Photo Credit: Grocery List

 

This is one of my biggest challenges. I always have a few items in mind that I need to get from the grocery store, but the rest of the items in my cart end up being in-the-moment purchases. Make a solid grocery list beforehand and commit to sticking with it by grabbing only the items you need. One way to do this is to first find healthy recipes and then creating a grocery list from the ingredients. For example, I’m subscribed to New York Times Cooking, which sends me daily emails of recipes. I choose and bookmark a few healthy ones every day so that by the end of the week, I have a list of ingredients for my weekend grocery shopping trip (as well as recipes to cook for next week then!). You can go paper-and-pen style or use an app on your phone to keep track of your list.

Another way is to commit to a 5-5-5 rule. Include 5 vegetables, 5 fruits, and 5 protein items on your list every time you make a trip to the grocery store (or any other area, such as fiber or a specific vitamin, that you may not get enough of). Depending on when your next trip will be though, you may have to increase these numbers. Think of your grocery list as being a grading rubric for a class assignment or a list of topics on an exam. Just as you would ensure to cover all required items for your clinical skills check or anatomy exam, and not a single more item than you have to, commit to ensuring you cover all the items on your list, and not more, for groceries as well.

3. Avoid Justifying Unhealthy Items for Costing Less

Photo Credit: Money Fork

I know we’re all “balling on a budget,” but try to not let that be a reason you start compromising healthy foods for less nutritious ones. Order that avocado for the extra 50 cents. Don’t order that whipped cream on the frappachino simply because it comes at the same price without it. If you’re like me and are easily lured by sale items at the grocery store (who doesn’t like buy one, get one free items?!), try to take more time to practice the previous points of being mindful and committing to a list. It’s easy to fall into marketing schemes since sales make “sense” that we would be saving money. However, it does not make “sense” to feed our brains and bodies with foods that have little to no nutritious value.

This goes for restaurants as well, especially if you don’t cook at home or buy groceries often. Think back to the 5-5-5 rule when ordering still: did you have vegetables, fruits, or protein today? Create and commit to a list and find items on the menu that incorporate this “grocery list.” We’re actually lucky that our bodies already give us a grocery list of items they need for optimal functioning: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water, etc. Seek the specifics your body truly needs on the menu, just as you would seek keywords in multiple choice options on an exam question to know it’s the correct answer.

4. And Of Course, Don’t Forget to Exercise!

Photo Credit: Time for Fitness

 

This last point is more of a reminder to exercise regularly. The benefits of exercise are endless. Schedule it into your calendar as if it were a mandatory class. Additionally, any time you start to feel your energy levels plunge, try exercising rather than reaching for energy bars or sugary foods for a boost, even if it’s simply 10 minutes. If you’re in class and a craving or energy lull hits, try seated calf raises under your desk, flexing and extending your toes in your shoes, or flexing and extending your fingers and hands (set a frequency too!). Again, it’s about creating a healthy response when your brain gets these signals.

We know exercise can cause physiological changes in more than just our muscles, specifically in our metabolic pathways. Keep moving regularly and solidifying healthy eating habits and it’ll soon feel like you never had a struggle with healthy eating, stress eating, or forgetting exercise. You won’t even have to think twice about it. Just like driving a car or riding a bike or remembering the direction of roll and glide for the convex-on-concave rule of arthrokinematics. It’s simply a matter of training the brain, or neuroplasticity, if you will…these are my foods for thought. Happy nutritious eating!

DPT Regis Talent Show: April 13th

Six weeks until summer semester!

Apart from the usual exams and practicals to prepare for, students and faculty are also preparing for the 3rd annual talent show, hosted by the Regis DPT Class of 2018!

WHEN: Thursday, April 13th 6pm-8pm

WHERE: Regis Recital Hall (in Claver Hall)

TICKETS: $5

It’s open to all undergraduate and graduate students. Visual (paintings, photography, etc) and performing talents welcomed! In order to perform you must fill out the audition form and bring it to the auditions which will be held in the Recital Hall on April 4th at 5:30pm.

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Welcome, Zuma!

The newest addition to our DPT program has arrived! Zuma will be trained by our service dog team of students.  We’re looking forward to seeing her learn and grow; she has a big vest to fill!

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…Oh, and isn’t she ADORABLE?!

The Best Loss I’ve Ever Had

Blogger Katie Ragle, Class of 2018, writes about her experience at the National Student Conclave held in Miami, Florida over the October 27-29th weekend.  

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Let me tell you about my trip to Miami.

It all started with an email from a fellow Regis student that read, “Hey Katie! I just tagged you in a Twitter post about the Student Assembly Board of Directors. Take a look at the application :). Deadline 7/1.” This began my journey into a passion for the APTA. But first, a history lesson:

If you are a PT or PTA student and an APTA member, then you are in the Student Assembly. There are around 29,000 of us, and we’re all led by a board of 10 people—the Student Assembly Board of Directors (SABoD). This board is comprised of positions such as president, vice president, and other director positions that help to make the student APTA experience a great one.

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That aforementioned email referred to the Director of Communications position on the SABoD. This person creates content to engage the Student Assembly through emails, social media, and videos. You may not realize it, but you receive emails from the Director of Communications on a regular basis.

As a broadcasting major with a minor in editing and publishing, this position was right up my alley. After I was encouraged to apply, I decided that I wanted this position to get more involved in the APTA and to use my talents to further the profession of physical therapy by engaging students from across the county.

After an application and a Skype interview, I was chosen to run alongside three other candidates for the Director of Communications. The election occurs every year at the National Student Conclave (NSC), which is the annual national APTA meeting that is just for students. Two weeks ago, I packed my suitcase and headed to Miami for the final election.

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The Regis representation at NSC.  I’m so glad they were there!

I arrived in Miami with nearly 1,000 PT and PTA students from around the country who gathered to learn how to be better practitioners and how to advocate for our profession. I was immediately blown away by the amount of enthusiasm and support for our field. Everyone eagerly engaged in meaningful conversations about their program and what they’re doing for the field of PT. Rather than simply clustering together with individuals from their schools, people branched out and met students from around the country. The excitement was palpable!

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These are the incredible candidates I got to interact with all weekend.

Little did I know that I would receive a ribbon that read “Candidate” all weekend so that people could ask me about my slated position. I had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people in my field! These people inspired me to not only be the best PT that I can be, but also to advocate for our profession and to represent it well. The speakers empowered us with knowledge in entertaining ways and generated passion for the field.

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This is one of my new friends, Alicia from MA

But more than passively attending, I got to actively participate in the conference. I participated in focus groups on how to make communication within the APTA better. I introduced a few speakers before their talks, and I met with the leaders of the Student Assembly to discuss the future of the organization. I also got to meet the president of the APTA, Dr. Sharon Dunn. She held an open Q&A for students to ask her any questions they had. She is both incredibly intelligent and personable. The APTA is fortunate to have her!

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APTA President, Dr. Sharon Dunn, gave all of us candidates a pep talk.

Did I win the election? No. Am I upset? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t trade my experience at NSC for anything. I made connections that will last a lifetime. This conference opened doors that I otherwise would have never been able to encounter. I still receive emails and messages from other students and professionals asking to keep in touch and encouraging future connection at upcoming APTA events. Best of all, NSC lit a fire within me for my future profession and for the organization that represents us so well.

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This is the amazing group of individuals with whom I ran for Director of Communications.  The one standing next to me (second from the left) was elected to the position.  His name is Cruz, and he will do great things for the Student Assembly!

In a future post, I will share some of the tips I learned at NSC about how to get plugged into the APTA;  for now, think about attending NSC 2017. It’s in Portland, Oregon, so how can you turn it down? You won’t regret it. We are the future of PT. Let’s be the best that we can be!

aptayay2.pngFollow NSC’s twitter to start counting down to next year!

Pelvic Health Physical Therapy: First Clinical Experience Reflection

Name: Maggie Nguyen, Class of 2018
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Undergrad: UC Santa Barbara

Fun Fact: I got 33 stitches across my forehead in high school.

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What is pelvic physical therapy?

I never would have guessed that my first clinical rotation would land me in rural Montrose, Colorado with a Clinical Instructor who specializes in pelvic health. I walked in on the first day absolutely terrified and with no idea what pelvic PT entailed. It turns out that pelvic physical therapy encompasses a wide range of diagnoses ranging from pre/post-surgery (hysterectomy, prostatectomy, C-section, etc.), pregnancy, sexual trauma, interstitial cystitis, urinary and fecal incontinence, rectal/uterine prolapse, and—essentially—anyone who is experiencing pelvic pain. We treat both women and men; we practiced manual therapy externally and internally using our hands and various tools.

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The pelvic floor

Your pelvic floor has two main purposes: it is a network of muscles that stabilize your entire pelvis and hips—so it affects your back and down to your knees—and it also relaxes and contracts at the appropriate times; this allows you to jump, run, and laugh without urinating or having a bowel movement when you don’t want to. If your pelvis is out of alignment or the muscles of the pelvic floor are not firing correctly, it throws off your entire body and is extremely painful. Just like you can get knots in the muscles of your neck and back, you can also get knots within your pelvic floor.

It was a world of PT that I didn’t even know existed. My CI was a Regis graduate and her treatment revolves mainly around manual therapy—specifically, trigger point release and soft tissue massage. She also uses biofeedback: by putting electrodes around the rectum, patients are given a visual of how strong or weak their pelvic floor muscle contractions are. The first four weeks of my rotation were spent mostly observing my CI. Every once in a while, she’d let me palpate external muscles that felt abnormal. By the fifth week, I had a foundation strong enough to be able to assess and treat some patients entirely on my own!

Did I feel prepared?

Yes and no. Who remembers the origin, insertion or innervation of the bulbocavernosus? I sure didn’t; a lot of our pelvic floor knowledge came from the first semester of PT school, and it took a little bit of time to refresh on the details. On the other hand, I had a tool belt filled with knowledge that I could draw from: I used the lower quarter scan we learned in our PT Exam class, manual muscle testing, motivational interviewing and, most importantly, palpation. Palpation allowed me to do an external assessment of posture and pelvic alignment despite not having a thorough background of pelvic health.

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Biggest Takeaway?

My first clinical rotation gave me my “breakthrough moment.” We all start school questioning whether or not we deserve to be here, whether or not we’re as smart as our peers, and whether or not we’re going to be good practitioners. For the past year, I wasn’t sure of any of those things until my fourth week of this first clinical. I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude from my patients and a feeling of capability that reignited my passion for PT and reminded me of why I started the whole journey in the first place.

And, if you ever find yourself exploring the Western Slope, make sure to check out Telluride, Ouray, Black Canyon National Park, and the breathtaking Blue Lakes!

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Regis DPT gear sale: order before October 30th!

It’s that time of the year: the fall clothing order is here! The Class of 2018 will take orders until October 30th, so now is the time to get your Regis DPT swag.

http://regisdpt.wixsite.com/clothingorder/shop

We have water bottles, wine glasses, hats, shirts and sweaters that will all be emblazoned with the Regis DPT logo upon ordering.  Whether you’re preparing for the winter season or looking for gift ideas, we recommend you check out the list and order before October 30th!

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